Much of my adult life I’ve been looking for the perfectplace that, when I see it, will make me sigh and say, “This is whereI’ll write my book one day.” A place to feel calm, a bit coddled, likesolitude was a state you might never tire of – a place with mild air,blue skies, plenty of space and just enough distractions.
I have found it: Waiheke Island in New Zealand, adestination I’d suspected for 10 years I'd love and which I finally visited last December. All 36 square miles of it are a study in laid-back, contentedcool; people keeping it simple and letting everyone else get on with whateverthey want to get on with. Such smiling magnanimity is made substantially easierthan in other places, one imagines, by the surfeit of natural beauty here –white-sand beaches, limpid turquoise bays, gently folding hills lined withvineyards and pohutakana trees and dotted with bachs, the modest localcottages. (And by the fact that Kiwis are just nice.)
I also know exactly where I would while away the hour ortwo a day I’d require by way of writerly distraction: at a lovely little placecalled The Oyster Inn, in the town of Oneroa. Opened in November 2012, it’s owned bytwo globetrotting creatives, Andrew Glenn (the former UK marketing director of Louis Vuitton, who was also head of comms for Topshop) and JonathanRutherford-Best (the man behind Urban Caprice, which he sold to RichardCaring). Together they upped sticks from London in 2010 and, after travellingthe world, decided to repatriate (both are half-New Zealanders) and cultivate abit of serious international style, leavened with a healthy dose of the localdown-to-earth-ness, on Waiheke.
The inn is actually a multi-attraction affair, housed in abig, lovely rambling clapboard building overlooking Oneroa Beach. It comprises an oysterbar, a proper fish restaurant (second picture) with a long and light-saturated terrace, a “fishand chippery” window for takeaways (third picture, with Rutherford-Best) and perfect, simple-chic accommodation (threerooms with wood floors, mid-century furniture, cotton dhurries on the floorsand lazily spinning ceiling fans).
But the pièce de résistance is the gorgeous little shop (fourth picture),stocking one or two of everything you could possibly need for a day, a week ora month on the island. There are jandals (the so-silly-they’re-cool rubbersandals Kiwis are notorious for) in an original 1970 Havaianas design thatGlenn had reissued, alongside perfect flat Soludos espadrilles from Spain.There are plush beach towels in the inn’s signature canary-yellow (along withOyster Inn-branded sun creams in yellow plastic tubes); there are straw hatsand sarongs and cotton-dhurrie beach bags and, for the boys, a selection ofOrlebar Brown trunks. But best of all is the line of ineffably chic ikat anddip-dye kaftans and tops Glenn himself has designed and produced, called TheWaihetian – and sold only here.
I bought a gorgeous white featherweight-cotton poncho-style pullover with patterns and stripes in hibiscus-pink and aquamarine,shot through with silver threads. I wore it every day of a week-longsojourn in Mauritius recently and garnered two compliments and a “Where can Iget that?” from people I’d never seen in my life. But where I really want towear it is back in Waiheke, sitting on a stool at the bar at the inn, noshingon the best fried calamari I’ve had in years, sipping a local Pinot Gris andperhaps plotting Chapter One. Or perhaps not.